In Response to Lynn Lee: An apology, and a clarification

On February 23rd, I submitted this article on The Online Citizen. To that, Lynn lee responds with this. Here is my response, cross-posted from Facebook.

Yes, I made a few mistakes. I admit to that, and I promise I will edit my work more thoroughly before submitting them.

So let’s make a couple of things clear. By live-tweeting, I meant to say that Lynn maintained contact with her friends throughout this incident, who live-tweeted and live-blogged about it, especially on the third day.

By ‘Lee’s accusation of harassment’, I should have said ‘the narrrative of police harassment is bolstered by people who do not make a distiction between legal standards and personal opinions and feelings’.

This article was originally a two-parter, with the other half an interview with Lee by another TOC reporter. The interview was called off after Lee gave her version of events, but I went ahead with the article based on what she wrote. Well, what I thought she wrote, and we saw how well that turned out.

I will point out that my comment on ‘ongoing investigation’ referred to the bus drivers, not her. The police did say they aren’t investigating her, but their deeds are very much like an investigation into a suspect under the Criminal Procedure Code. It seems that they are gathering information about her to see if she did warrant a full criminal investigation. That was what I should have written. I don’t know about Lee, but I prefer looking at actions and understanding why people do what they do before passing judgment.

As for Lee’s credibility and training, I’m sure her training does her well in life. But unless she demonstrates a background in actual police work, her opinion on what constitutes evidence in a criminal investigation still doesn’t hold any weight. Failing that, actual experience in examining a criminal investigation would do–but if she had any, she didn’t say.

But that’s nitpicking. The remark was made in the context of the police not knowing who she is and what she knows. They cannot take her word at face value. They have to examine everything.

Lee asks if there were cheering and booing. I saw plenty of that in my Facebook feed. But, well, I suppose I shouldn’t generalise. It was another mistake.

Regarding what she thought I thought about her exchanges with the police, she ironically makes the same mistake she accuses me of, that of concocting fiction and pretending to know what someone else is thinking. I inserted that quote from Thompson’s book to provide context for my point about the police needing soft skills training. She took that remark out of context. I did not mean to imply that there were teeth-gnashing moments. But the officers came off as ignorant and overly-confrontational, which verbal judo would prevent. It was about perception of the police by someone of a particular personality type, not how she interacted with the police.

I don’t think Lee is hindering the police by questioning them. I think she is simply mistaken about why they have to be so invasive. I also don’t think the police should expect slavish compliance; my article contains a list of questions for the police, questions about their conduct, procedures, the legal basis of seizing Lee’s property.

The closest I got to talking about outright compliance was for tactical reasons, by not further provoking a potential suspect cop (who, I might add, has plenty of weapons on his person), so you survive to file a complaint. I did not say people shouldn’t question the police, only that they should first understand context.

Lee calls my article long, overwrought and overly presumptuous. Even I thought it was too long. But I don’t write to create memorable talking points, reinforce narratives, or to feel good about myself. I refuse to look and write about things from a singular perspective, devoid of context. That way lies ignorance.

Here, I sought to share what little I think I know about police work, having known policemen all my life. I went forth to understand and highlight the narratives and requirements and beliefs that informed how the police have acted and how the people reacted to her piece. That meant providing context. I wish I can find a better way to communicate this more efficiently, but I’m not quite at that standard yet.

Yes, I made a few factual mistakes, and for that I apologise. But the crux of what I wrote still stands, that the police were doing their jobs, and a couple failed to meet the highest professional standards. The world is not black and white. It is both and all colours in between.

Just one thing to highlight. As far as I could tell, Kirsten Han and Vincent Wijeysingha made the initial accusations of police harassment on Facebook and Twitter. Not Lynn Lee.